I was at a primary school in the east Midlands last week. It was all but deserted, with most of the kids in makeshift classrooms nearby. Dodgy concrete, you see. This place was ahead of the game, having found the stuff earlier in the year and, thanks to brilliant work by the head and her staff, was ticking along nicely.
I handled a chunk of the dreaded Raac. It was light as a pumice stone and seemed somehow even less structurally sound than the Aero bar it’s supposed to resemble. At least the bubbles in an Aero are even; these were a ropey-looking hotch-potch.
But it was something else I saw that I can’t get out of my mind. It was a book on display in the little library, an ageing hardback picture book called Dad’s in Prison. At first I’m afraid my rather sheltered upbringing left me shocked and then somehow amused at such a thing. I’m ashamed to say I even let out a little snort of something like derision.
And I’ve not stopped thinking about that book. The idea of being the dad in prison. The idea of being the kid in school with the dad in prison. The idea of being the kid with the dad in prison and everyone in the school knowing it. I tracked down one of the writers, Sandra Cain, who got it published nearly a quarter of a century ago off the back of work she was doing with a prison charity. She has moved on now but tells me that although there were those who mocked the book, she remains proud of it. She may have started something. If you search that title there are plenty of similar books available now, which is good but sad all at the same time.